Niki Terpstra made something of a leap of faith in leaving QuickStep, the most victorious team in the WorldTour, and joining Direct Energie, but he insisted he is perfectly satisfied with the way things are turning out at the second-division French team.
Terpstra enjoyed his best classics campaign to date in 2018, winning Le Samyn, E3-Harelbeke, and the Tour of Flanders, as well as finishing on the podium at Paris-Roubaix. Consequently, his market value shot up and Direct Energie, with money to invest in a push for WorldTour status, were able to pry him away from Patrick Lefevere’s team, where he’d been for eight years.
Terpstra has been open about the fact that money was a major factor in his decision – this being, at 34, perhaps his last big contract – but also insisted he was keen for a new challenge. He raced in the black and yellow for the first time at the GP La Marseillaise – won by teammate Anthony Turgis – at the start of February, followed by the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana last week. This week he’ll be fine-tuning his Classics form at the Tour of Oman.
“I was pretty open to it. I think if you go to a new team you don’t know exactly what to expect, so I was pretty open minded but until now I am satisfied,” Terpstra said ahead of the first stage in Oman.
“It’s going pretty well. Niccolo Bonfazio already has some wins [three at the Tropicale Amissa Bongo -ed] and Marseillaise was good. It’s been a nice start for the team.”
Terpstra revealed earlier this month that, when working on team time trialling at a training camp, he’d had to encourage the coaches to draw up a road map and pay attention to the technical aspects of the discipline. That said, he insisted there were no genuine deficiencies at his new home.
“It’s not extremely different,” Terpstra said. “The teams both want to do good. Every team is different, but in the end we’re all guys who like to ride the bike as fast as possible.”
Direct Energie will hope that, as well as enhancing their WorldTour candidacy, Terpstra can help secure a wildcard invitation to the Tour de France, the most important race of the season for the French team.
Terpstra, however, is focused on the spring rather than the summer, and feels optimistic about what he and his team can achieve. Despite Direct Energie’s relative lack of success in the spring, Terpstra feels the riders are capable, and will be able to step up with him as the focal point.
“I don’t think bringing a wildcard to the team is a bigger pressure than trying to win a classic. I will do my best and if that will come it’s nice but that’s not the goal, the goal is to make good results,” he said.
“They are already pretty motivated. I think the group that’s going to do the Classics already have some experience over there. They have the qualities to do well in these races. I think half the team here in Oman will do the Classics. Of course it’s not the same group for every Classic, but half of this team then some other riders.”
In terms of his own approach, he won’t be able to rely on back-up like Philippe Gilbert, Zdenek Stybar and Yves Lampaert to occupy rivals’ minds, but nevertheless vowed to retain the attacking mindset that worked so well last year.
“I still have to race in my own style. If I change it, I will change to a style that will not suit me,” he said. “I have to still be aggressive but always at the right moment.”